The head of the Sydney Local Health District has apologised for an error that saw 163 boarders from the prestigious boys’ school St Joseph’s College receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, despite only a small number of the students being eligible for the shot.
The apology, which accepted responsibility for allowing a wider cohort of students to get immunised with the Pfizer vaccine than were eligible, did not explain how the error was made.
According to Joeys principal Ross Tarlinton, NSW Health had approved the school’s request to inoculate the students aged over 16 at a vaccine centre.
The request for some of the private school students to access the COVID-19 vaccine had reportedly been made in May. The reason provided by the school for the teenagers to be vaccinated was because some of the boarders hailed from rural, remote and Aboriginal communities.
“The approval and administration of the vaccine was endorsed and managed by NSW Health through the Sydney Local Health District,” Tarlinton told the ABC.
“Acknowledging that the College does not determine vaccination priority, it welcomed the opportunity to offer the vaccine for students given the approvals provided.”
“Given that we have a large number of boys who live in a residential community, which includes boys from rural, remote and indigenous communities,” he said.
On Tuesday night the Sydney Local Health District issued a media statement from its chief executive Teresa Anderson.
Anderson clarified that under the federal COVID-19 vaccination eligibility criteria, all Aboriginal people aged 16 to 49 years were considered a priority group because they had a ‘higher risk of acquiring, and developing severe disease’ from the virus.
“Sydney Local Health District was approached by St Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill in relation to the vaccination of Aboriginal students boarding at the school,” Anderson said.
“It was agreed that the Aboriginal students would be vaccinated through the state health system at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s vaccination hub.”
Despite accepting responsibility and apologising for the ‘error’, no number was given by the Sydney Local Health District as to how many of the boarders that received the Pfizer shot were ineligible. Anderson also did not explain how the error occurred.
“Through an error, the wider group of boarders in year 12, a total of 163 students, were also vaccinated,” Anderson said.
“Sydney Local Health District apologises for this error.”